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The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

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Serve & Protect? [2016]

For many Americans, police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota earlier this summer were strikingly similar to other instances across the nation in recent years. The prominence of the shootings–and the retaliation in Dallas–has sparked a new round of questioning about the role of local police in their communities.

On this episode, we’re looking at how the police departments we’re familiar with today took shape. We’ll explore how the first municipal police departments were assembled to quell riots in the 1840s – not fight crime – and we’ll consider what happens when the police don’t protect those they serve.